By Phil La Duke
At the risk of being attacked by the left and the right I feel compelled to ask the question in the face of such political upheaval in the U.S. and the U.K. what fate will befall worker safety?
Trump has promised to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and retreat from the Paris Accord (on climate change) and Brexit has plunged both the UK and the EU into a world of uncertainty, whatever the future holds, I fear we cannot count on the rule of law to protect workers from on the job injuries. Nut jobs, please recognize that I am not taking a political position, rather calling the facts as I see them; I’m not saying things are right or wrong, I am merely stating facts. Remember facts?
Safety regulations have been under siege for quite some time, with business owners howling that keeping workers from being seriously injured or exposed to deadly chemicals presented too onerous a burden; threatening their purse and purpose. The laws designed to protect people were easily circumvented, by outsourcing the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs to countries with either less strenuous regulations or that were easier to influence.
Some might believe this dismantling of the EPA as an important step toward returning jobs for unskilled labor back to U.S. shores and the Brexit as a way of keeping foreigners from edging out Britts for jobs, and that remains to be seen. And if it does, at what cost?
In a practical sense, it doesn’t matter what the U.S. or U.K. do to safety regulations; companies doing business in the E.U. must abide by the European Union regulations and in most cases of which I am aware, businesses are following these regulations in all locations, not just those in the E.U. In fact, some certifications required by E.U. , the vendors must explain their approaches as a company as a whole so as much as the predictors of doom and gloom the most meaningful change is that the United States and United Kingdom have abdicated their roles as leaders in environmental and, by extension, safety regulations. Far from “bringing jobs home” a significant loosening of regulations threaten to move jobs overseas to locales (probably Europe and Asia) more in line with the philosophy of the EU.
The change may be even more fundamental than this; changes in regulations won’t necessarily change the pressure that OEMs place on their supply chains to meet environmental, sustainability, and safety targets. Far from destroying globalization, by moving the decision-making regarding EH&S to private industry, these recent political developments might actually hasten the development of a global economy. Far from “making America (or the UK) great again” the effect may actually move both nations from being leaders in the world to isolated backwaters where reason fears to tread.
There are no do-overs in elections and people can rail for or against the results on social media but in the final estimation it changes nothing. We now must face the fact that we have abdicated the leadership of EH&S to the EU and industry. Again, I am not making judgments here, simply calling things as I see them. I don’t care who you supported in the U.S. election or how you voted on Brexit, but the outcomes of both have essentially reduced the leadership and influence of the U.S. and U.K. in terms of safety and given it to the E.U. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it signals a change in the world order, and with change comes uncertaintu.